Something bigger than me happened at work the other day.
I was visiting the home of an elderly man who had fallen. I was there to monitor a healing infection and tend to his wounds. He was a frail, gentle man who told me he was ready for his life to be over. Not suicidal…the guy is in his mid 90s and not feeling well at all. It’s just time. His doting wife is quite a bit younger and not ready for him to give up just yet. This happens all the time. It’s not easy to face this season of life, even though we all know it’s coming for each and every one of us.
So, I’m at his house for the second time this week. His infection has gotten worse. I tell them he will probably need to go back to the hospital. He shakes his head. His wife tells me it will kill him to go back, that he just wants to stay home. So, I start the conversation of hospice. Never an easy conversation to have. I keep in mind my mother, who just traveled this journey with her husband, as I look into this woman’s eyes. As much as she’s not ready for him to go, she knows this is what he needs. She can see it’s time. I put my hand on her shoulder as we speak, hoping to channel some peace into her aching soul.
I assist the man to his bed. He’s sitting on the side so I can change his bandages. He asks me, “So I don’t have to go back to the hospital?” “No”, I reply. “You can stay home from here on out and we will send in a team of nurses who specialize in keeping you comfortable. They will help take care of you so your wife doesn’t have to work so hard and you can stay home“. He smiles and lets out the biggest sigh of relief. He says, “My pastor is coming today. I’m going to ask him to talk to God for me.” I’m on my knees as I speak to him, as I’m changing a bandage on his leg. It’s a draining wound, and some traveled down to his feet. I took a gauze sponge and wiped his feet clean. I look up at him and say, “I’m sure he’ll talk to God for you. But you can talk to God yourself. And I can, too. I’ll talk to God for you and ask him to ease your suffering… and hers”, as I gesture to his wife. He smiled down at me, as I tended to his wounds. “You’re an angel. I can see the wings growing out of there” and he gestures to behind my shoulder. He’s looking at it like he can actually see them there. He’s adorable. I’m such a sucker for these 90 year olds. “You’re an angel, just like she is“, and he looks over at his wife, who is leaning against the wall, looking away in her grief. She would move mountains for this man. But, mountains weren’t meant to be moved, I guess. He puts his hands on my shoulders, then cups my face in them, leans down and softly presses his forehead on mine. Almost like he was blessing me. As I washed his feet. Can you see it now? Can you see how this is something bigger than me?
I finish my work and tuck him into bed. I arranged for hospice to take over, so I knew this would probably be our last interaction. His wife walked me to the door. I tried to give her some comforting words, but I don’t think there really is such a thing, not during a time like this. She thanked me for my compassion and I went on my way. As sad as that scenario is, I felt good about it. I felt I healed them. Not physically, of course. There is no physical healing left in the world for that man. But spiritually, I think I did a decent job. I wondered why it was so easy for me to heal other people’s souls, and so difficult to heal my own. I haven’t felt like I’ve been healing at all, lately. I thought of him calling me an angel. It reminded me of my angels, the one’s I pray to, the one’s I meditate to, the one’s I think of when I’m feeling broken. One thought led to another, and I thought of all the internal struggles I’ve been enduring recently, and I realized they are easing. I’ve been putting in my work, my gardening. I’ve noticed the difficulty in healing myself and realized I had been slacking off on my work. The work I do on my own soul to put the pieces back together. So, I put some work in, and soon realized I’m bouncing back from emotional heartache a lot quicker than I used to. Pieces are starting to be put together again. So, I guess I’m still healing myself, after all…
Two houses later, I happen upon a patient with a cute little dog. He said it was a miniature toy schnauzer. This dog was SO in to me! She was standing on her hind legs, reaching up to me, begging for affection. I spent a few minutes stroking her head, her eyes steadily gazing into mine. She reminded me of this therapy dog I used to know, Frank. I had an emotionally intimate relationship with Frank. I swear, I think I can feel love from dogs easier than I can feel love from people. So, I felt an instant connection to this dog. I ask the patient what her name is, as I continue gazing into her eyes, feeling peaceful. He smiles at me and replies, “Angel”.